The first operational Block III F/A-18 Super Hornet lifts off over Lambert International Airport in St. Louis. (Photo by Boeing)
The first operational Block III F/A-18 Super Hornet lifts off over Lambert International Airport in St. Louis. (Photo by Boeing)

Boeing Delivers First Operational Block III F/A-18 Super Hornet to US Navy

Boeing delivered the first of 78 contracted Block III F/A-18 Super Hornets to the U.S. Navy. Block III gives the U.S. Navy the most networked and survivable F/A-18 built with a technology insertion plan that will outpace future threats. Block III’s new adjunct processor translates to a fighter that will do more work and in far less time increasing a pilot’s situational awareness. The jet is ready to receive apps-based solutions that will allow upgrades to the aircraft throughout its life span.

“We invested in Block III technology and developed the capabilities in partnership with the U.S. Navy to meet its emerging requirements,” said Jen Tebo, Boeing vice president of F/A-18 and EA-18G programs. “The hardware upgrades are complete. Today we are maximizing the open hardware and software and developing the apps to keep Block III ahead of future threats. We are giving Navy pilots the tools to make the fastest and most informed decisions possible now and in the future.”

Boeing’s ramp team prepares DCMA pilots for flight ahead of delivering the first Block III Super Hornet. (Photo by Boeing)

“The fleet needs capabilities to keep its edge,” said Capt. Jason “Stuf” Denney, U.S. Navy F/A-18 and EA-18G program manager. “Getting the first operational Block III in our hands is a great step forward in supporting our capability and readiness goals.”

In 2019, Boeing received a $4 billion contract to deliver 78 Block III Super Hornets for the Navy through fiscal 2021. The Navy plans to sign year to year contracts with Boeing to convert all of its Block II aircraft to Block III variants through 2033. Boeing will continue to deliver Block III capabilities to the Navy through the mid-2030s from three lines. One new build production, and two Service Life Modification lines extending the life and eventually upgrading Block II Super Hornets to Block III. The first aircraft delivered will complete the U.S. Navy flight test program before deploying to a squadron.

The U.S. Navy’s first Block III F/A-18 Super Hornet taxis towards the runway ahead of its delivery flight to Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.(Photo by Boeing)

Boeing F/18 E/F Super Hornets are to receive avionics upgrades under the Block III program to improve information exchange speeds and allow the sharing of streaming video and other data. The upgrades include a large display advanced cockpit system to allow pilots to process and share more information, a Boeing Distributed Targeting Processor Network (DTP-N) that complies with open mission systems standards, and Tactical Targeting Network Technology (TTNT) – an information pipe that allows an increase in bandwidth to collect and share time critical information using streaming video, still imagery and other means.

The U.S. Navy is pursuing a Service Life Modification (SLM) effort to permit the Super Hornets to remain in service several decades more. Boeing said it delivered the first SLM Super Hornet to the United States Navy this month and plans to deliver another two by April. The first SLM Super Hornets do not carry Block III and are to extend the aircraft’s service life from 6,000 flight hours to 7,500 flight hours. Upgraded SLM aircraft in the early 2020s are to carry the Block III upgrades and to have 10,000 flight hours of service life, according to Boeing.

The first operational Block III F/A-18 Super Hornet lifts off over Lambert International Airport in St. Louis. (Photo by Boeing)